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Full text of "Men Of Mathematics"




THE name Jacobi appears frequently in the sciences, not always
meaning the same man. In the 1840's one very notorious Jacobi
- M. H. - had a comparatively obscure brother, C. G. J.?
whose reputation then was but a tithe of M, H.*s, To-day the
situation is reversed: C. G. J. is immortal - or seemingly so,
while M. H. is rapidly receding into the obscurity of limbo.
M. H. achieved fame as the founder of the fashionable quackery
of galvanoplastics; C. G. J.'s much narrower but also much
higher reputation is based on mathematics. During his lifetime
the mathematician was always being confused with his more
famous brother, or worse, being congratulated for his involun-
tary kinship to the sincerely deluded quack. At last C* G. J.
could stand it no longer. Tardon me, beautiful lady*, he
retorted to an enthusiastic admirer of M. H. who had compli-
mented him on having so distinguished a brother, 'but I am my
brother.' On other occasions C. G. J. would blurt out, 'I am not
his brother, he is mine'. There is where fame has left the rela-
tionship to-day.
Carl Gustav Jacob Jacobi, born at Potsdam, Prussia, Ger-
many, on 10 December 1804 was the second son of a prosperous
banker, Simon Jacobi, and his wife (family name Lehmann),
There were in all four children, three boys, Moritz, Carl, and
Eduard, and a girl, Therese. Carl's first teacher was one of his
maternal uncles, who taught the boy classics and mathematics,
preparing him to enter the Potsdam Gymnasium in 1816 in his
twelfth year. From the first Jacobi gave evidence of the
'universal mind' which the rector of the Gymnasium declared
him to be on his leaving the school in 1821 to enter the Univer-
sity of Berlin. Like Gauss, Jacobi could easily have made a